Long rumored, the service marks the first real entry in the USA of a Fixed Mobile Convergence Play by one of the leading mobile operators. In my view this is an important step and well timed, as T-Mobile gets out of the box first with the announcement ahead of the Sprint/Cable MSO's.
Time Warner has previously acknowledged that it too is in trials along the same line with Siemens, using BridgePort Network's Virtual Call Continuity technology that allows active calls to switch between WiFi or hard wired access points connected to the T-W cable network and the Sprint Cellular network without dropping the call.
Om has a lengthy post about video conferencing and the Cisco foray into their billion dollar baby, TelePresence. Many of the news accounts of the Cisco announcement are clearly "future maybes" and given the pricing I have to just help to clarify them. $79,000. $299,000. Okay, Cisco isn't planning on selling every start up some otherwise the VC's (other than those with Cisco money) would just squirm on how their money is spent. I mean, this stuff is for those either who dream of being in the next gen version of "LifeStyle of the Rich and Famous" or a new edition of the Apprentice, but only those who want to hear the Donald's famous last words unless they are the biggest of the big.
But seriously, to me the future of video starts with the light and fleet, not initially with the big and costly. We're entering an era that I have dubbed "Instant Video." This combines both face to face communications and video publishing to blogs and web sites. People are now living in both worlds, both Real Time Communications and in the video posting realm (You Tube, Blip.tv, etc.) as part of both communications and collaboration efforts. This new era means video has to work at the laptop and mobile level, not only in a room, that is sequestered in a building and can be bought by anyone.
In my mind today's news is the typical Cisco big company effort to signal Wall Street, and their top tier customer base where they are heading, and as a result, to start budgeting for the purchase. Froma pure PR perspective, it did just that. For months I've been aware of this effort coming to fruition due to some recent hires they have made to lead efforts around the globe. But despite all the hoopla, it's not really ready for today.
As Om points out when he references SightSpeed and iChat, its already possible to deliver a "cheap" solution. Some of these solutions offer 30 frames/second, without any latency, perfectly synced audio and video, with pristine high tv like video quality. These "personal and instant solutions" don't require people or businesses to go out and assemble any special infrastructure. This speaks to the now and just how flexible the solutions they are. Those solutions will be the starting points, that lead to Telepresence.
Jim Crowe of Level3 referenced a point at his Jeff Pulver Fireside chat at the Harvard Club during VON, regarding the need to have the bandwidth to do this stuff, or fiber, isn't even lit yet. So while this is a nice nod in the Level3 firelighting departments direction TelePresence sure isn't something that people or companies will be lining up for this year or next, though Cisco would like to paint that picture (and is.)
From a cost standpoint services that are FREE or less than $5/month are here today. These services offer up the bells and whistles that Cisco is promising. They include multi-party and are portable/mobile and can work where ever you want to be, not where the Telepresence room is. That reminds me of what Kinkos used to offer with Sprint. You had to drive to the one or two places where Sprint had installed their next generation video network.
The news coming out today means that there are now two distinct categories in the video conferencing and collaboration world.
1. Personal/Instant Video Communications and Collaboration
2. TelePresence for the Enterprise, University and Government
The first category is already here. It works. It has users. Yahoo, SightSpeed (an agency client), Microsoft, Skype, Apple via iChat are the players there and over the past few months the magazines that cover the sector and have already said who's best.
The second category to me is almost in the realm of an Internet2 initiative. Mere mortals can't afford it. It's not really here yet and to drive adoption and comfort more people need to experience video conferencing. Already today inexpensive, easy to use, easy to install, without any financial barrier options are available and that holds the key to what Cisco wants to do. It's not an either or, it's a building block approach.
In today's 2.0 world the former is what will drive the latter. We have seen this with IM and many other desktop tools that have found their way into big business. Cisco would be well suited to have their Linksys group take a long look at the Personal Video Communications sector and help make that grow, as it would only be in their best interest.
A story out of Australia regarding some statements by two Gartner analysts and Cisco's John Chambers seems to point in the right direction for some 2.0 type companies, including some my agency represents.
In reading the Computerworld article this morning I couldn't help but feel overjoyed for the implied endorsement of client SightSpeed when the author quoted Cisco's John Chambers' remark about cost savings related to travel by using video conferencing. While only a few but the largest companies will be able to take advantage of the planned Telepresence platform Cisco is planning to roll out, any individual or company can immediately take advantage of Sightspeed today, for free.
I also see these comments helping to move iotum, another agency client's efforts along the right way. As more and more companies and people need to better manage where there attention is placed throughout the day, the iotum Relevance Engine squarely solves that problem allowing people to collaborate better and not be interrupted by untimely callers. This also bodes well for companies in the web conferencing space like WebDialogs, and their Unyte platform which makes web conferencing as easy as a click of the button, and just like SightSpeed does fosters better and easier collaboration.
This next comment really hit home especially as it applies to pals Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet's GrandCentral:
Finally, Fabbi and Hafner say ICT executives who save a big chunk of money on such things as bandwidth should use that money on technologies such as application acceleration, unified communications, mobility and voice over wireless LAN. “Don’t focus on a better network”, Hafner advises. “Focus on a better business.’’
Having used GrandCentral in beta I've found a few bugs, but Vincent and Craig are fixing them almost as fast as they are found, or at least know what's causing some of the issues. Those are minor compared to the convenience which Grand Central is bringing to the masses. The comments by Gartner also validates what guys like iotum's Alec Saunders, Yahoo's Jeff Bonforte (VP to Be I say) and Brad Garlinghouse, PhoneGnome inventor David Beckemeyer, AOL Senior VP Ragui Kamel (leader of the AIM PhoneLine project and Ecosystem) and Jeff Pulver have all been saying from the start, and which I have been saying from the earliest days of this blog, that the applications will be where the money is.
There comment about Mobility brings up the recent Georgia Tech announcement for their new 3G Lab. Many leading companies like Cingular and Siemens have jumped on to help make this lab possible, and applications like the BridgePort MobileVoIP solution, one I have been well informed about since it's very start that enables seamless automatic network selection and mid-call voice handovers between networks is another winner based on the analysts comments.
In essence the Gartner analyst team has done is said to business basically, use the 2.0 applications with your 1.0 phones and networks.
As I think about this point I have never heard a better long way around the barn compliment for PhoneGnome and David's vision of layering in more to what you already have in place (your PSTN phone line). Want proof, just realize that Alec Saunders' iotum already works with PhoneGnome. Want more. Look at how iotum will work later this year with AIM PhoneLine.
What this means is you don't need to throw away the old to have the new. With a little imagination the old and new can coexist and make for a better phone world. Now only if the incumbent carriers would realize that, wouldn't all this Voice 2.0 activity really become a reality!!
As a child of the 60's about the only two numbers I could recall to dial were Weather and Time in Philadelphia's 215 area code (215-WE6-1212) and (215-TI6-1212).
For Vonage to make such a big deal of their addition of weather shows me how cold and overcast things have gotten. Granted since Jeff Pulver stopped being a part of their team a sunny and bright future wasn't in the forecast. Innovation has became a forgotten thing, but next they'll be sending out announcements making speed calling standard to dial the Psychic Hotline-Stock Tips Line, with direct connections the stock market tipsters' Voice Mail who forecasted a bright and sunny future for the Garden State's most underperforming and now very well known phone company.
So while the new PR winds may be blowing hot air at gale force these days off the Island of Manhattan, the chances of a steamy hot sales days of the stock seem to be at best gloomy.
Vonage has had hot days, but an Artic chill has taken over and they've stopped be a cool and breezy company. If anything they've frozen over and need some kind of heat wave in sales to reemerge.
I'm a huge fan of personal video communications, even if it means I have to shave everyday, not have a bad hair day and even get dressed. When I'm on the go I wish I could see what is up with my fiance who lives 500 miles away and since she is more mobile phone than PC laden throughout the day, it would be nice if what the Nokia Nseries phones let me do with Mobile Video (ask Howard Thaw of iotum) in Europe would work here in the USA as well.
Peter Csathy, CEO of SightSpeed, Luca and Ken Camp have been involved in an online and offline three way dance on this subject, so now I'll make it a four way.
Mobile Video is not going replace voice. It will supplement it. Just like it took years for the telephone to eliminate the telegraph and to make Western Union obsolete, so too will video have its day on mobile devices.
Also the way society travels will have to change too. We live in a car intensive society here in the USA. Driving and talking are already being made taboo in some states, one only imagine what will happen when people are driving and watching one another.
On the other hand in a mass transit world, like Europe and Japan I could see the idea of mobile video communications taking hold.
We have to realize that what's good in one part of society and the globe isn't best for all. A USA centric viewpoint can't be our only perspective, so viewing through other people's eyes is often the best way to sometimes look at things.
Luca is bringing a great viewpoint, so is Martin and Jeff. This is a hot topic so I only hope we make it jump from text to live on a future VoIP Think Tank or at a panel at VON.
Their current offering for video pales in comparison by all accounts to client SightSpeed, so if you took one part Microsoft added one part SightSpeed, then cooked up some Level3 bandwidth you'd really have a great network to see what's really happening.